Use multiple sources, not just tests, to measure student success

Regarding the June 1 article, "A local rebellion over who gets a diploma": Massachusetts Board of Education Chairman James Peyser says that students who fail the state's MCAS standardized test should not get high school diplomas because those diplomas will not "ensure lives that include meaningful opportunities." But in fact, it is the state's own policy that is denying opportunity.

Only in the eyes of the testing-obsessed is a student with relatively low skills and no diploma better off than a similar student with a diploma. Students who show what Mr. Peyser calls "effort and achievement" where it should count most - in their schoolwork - should not be denied graduation simply because of a test score. The truth is that some individuals who do well in school simply do not test well. Why should their options to demonstrate competence on the job or in a college classroom be limited because of a politically mandated exam?

High-stakes testing not only hurts individuals, it pressures schools to become test-prep programs. This narrows and "dumbs down" teaching and learning, denying many students a high-quality education.

These are the key reasons why so many parents and communities around the nation are battling against high-stakes testing. Instead, they are calling for using multiple sources of evidence to identify both student and school performance.
Monty Neill
Executive director, FairTest
Cambridge, Mass.

Negotiation with Iran is the way to go

Regarding the June 1 article, "A new US bid to contain Iran": I admire the efforts of the US State Department to use diplomatic measures to persuade Iran to suspend uranium enrichment. Negotiation (with our "feet under the table," as Winston Churchill preferred to say in his diplomatic dealings), rather than war, is the only way to go.

Iran is part of Central Asia, and former President Eisenhower warned us not to get involved in a land war in Asia even before the Vietnam War. "Saving face" is essential to hundreds of Asian cultures. We must realize this in dealing with Asian countries. When we proclaim too many conditions and "ifs" before we negotiate, we may undermine any possible progress.

Is the US prepared to challenge or even invade any country which develops nuclear weapons? Probably not. A better way than war would be to encourage nuclear-free zones as a starting point for eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons. To remove all nuclear weapons from the Middle East and South Asia would be a good first step (this would include Israel, Pakistan, India, and, if it has any weapons, Iran). Then the other nuclear countries such as the US, Russia, Britain, and France could gradually follow. We owe this to our grandchildren.
Henry G. Rutledge
Davis, Calif.

Creative copy can be a joy to read

Regarding David Martin's June 2 Opinion piece, "Break free from verbose verbiage": It's true that an inept writer attempting to use less common words can turn a basic piece into the proverbial hash, but please don't call for an across-the-board ban on synonyms. Would you avoid bad murals by allowing only white walls, or tooth-grating music by banning all but one note? An intricately written piece can be frustrating to read, or delightfully fun - just as a magic show can be boring (even embarrassing) or thrilling. All depends on the skill of the wordsmith or performer.
Cynthia Bushnell
Southington, Ohio

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